When church leaders are asked about the growing trend of 20-somethings leaving the faith, their responses usually coalesce around lifestyle issues; that is, the lure of immorality has caused these young people to fall away. I believe this is only a part of the story. Yes, the Christian lifestyle can be difficult to maintain during the transition from the relative security of home to the new found freedom of college life, the workplace, and a new group of friends. (As an aside, we often exacerbate this challenge when we have not trained our children thoroughly in the provisions of the new covenant for living the Christian life, but we will have to save that discussion for later.)
When “young leavers” cite a theological or intellectual crisis as the reason for leaving the faith, it may conveniently coincide with adopting a new lifestyle. But to lump all departures into the lifestyle category would be to ignore the unique, complex, and often layered process that eventually led these folks to leave the faith. Dr. Ruth Tucker has investigated this process in her book Walking Away from Faith. She identifies five broad categories of reasons for people losing faith. They are:
- Scientific and philosophical issues, particularly evolution and naturalism.
- Biblical perplexities and higher criticism.
- Disappointment with God regarding personal and wide-scale suffering.
- Hypocrisy and lack of caring among leaders in the church.
- Lifestyle and perspective, including homosexuality, feminism, secularism, and pluralism.
Only one of these categories addresses lifestyle issues. Some deal with intellectual concerns. Some reflect the harsh realities of life in a fallen world. But all of these issues have biblical answers. The answers alone, however, may not be enough. Delivering them with grace, love, and humility is paramount. Join us for the next several posts as we take each of these concerns in order and explore where Scripture leads.